Guest writer: Winifred Beevers

WORLD EXCLUSIVE:

Today, a big chance of pace as we hear from a skater who spends her time on the Bradbury Rink, not the Henke. Yes, a figure skater joins this crazy blog. She’s got a name that should be a hockey team, and she does all those figure skating moves without frickin’ armour. Full respect from this skater.  Introducing Winifred Beevers …

The figure skater on L-plates

By Winifred Beevers

I came to hockey via ice-skating.

I grew up mostly in Queensland where roller skating and large shoulder pads ruled – it was the 80’s. My mother would not allow me to go skating as she’d heard stories about the panel vans in the car park.  I came to Melbourne to do a music degree. Fast forward to 2011 and I take the kids to the Icehouse one school holidays. To my astonishment my kids fell constantly whereas I didn’t. I’m amazed that I can even go forwards when I want. I start wondering if this is something I can do.

I sign up for Adult 1 lessons and immediately stand out as the person most likely to fall. I spend weeks choosing and buying skates over the internet. My hands are important to me. I buy wrist guards and graduate to Adult 2.

This pic is kind of an unfair choice by me, but I haven’t had a chance to run it since early 2011 … Nicko

Soon after beginning lessons I venture onto public ice in a morning session. There were three people skating: me, and two guys. One is Bill,  Icehouse’s resident “legendary old dude”. The other is some guy in hockey skates, also feeling his way. I practice going around one of the circles – forwards – and we smack into each other. We grab each other by the shoulders, freakily stay upright and start spinning. I WISH I could do this intentionally.

I am finally doing backward crossovers and occasionally doing mohawks. The coaches have all been unfailingly friendly and encouraging. I still fall often, resulting in one episode of mild concussion. I now wear an Ice Halo. My next purchase will be pants with hip and coccyx protectors.

I really enjoy the time in a new world, with my new skating buddies from classes. I love watching the hockey guys pivoting so easily and really wish I could do a spectacular hockey stop. Actually just stopping intentionally would be nice.

Recently I was on freshly sharpened blades. During class warm up I was zigging across the ice just loving the speed and the sensation of flying. It was sooo good! Suddenly realised that I couldn’t stop and then I did. Full body and face slam into the glass and boards of the Henke rink. I leave an impression of my nose and chin in the glass. No concussion this time (Ice Halo works!) just bruised knees, nose and chin. My family and classmates cheekily suggest swapping to hockey just for the protective gear.

Speaking of hockey – my family wanted to see something on ice. I figure hockey is a good start. Any competition where Australia is up against New Zealand is always going to be a good spectator experience. Bring on the Trans Tasman Cup.

Melbourne Ice vs. Southern Stampede. It is a pushover for Ice. We have a ball trying to work out the rules, loving the fights with boundaries and the speed of the game. I’ve always enjoyed the rugby, this is rugby on ice! The musician in me wishes they had live music and lyrics on the big screen for the respective anthems. Next time call the Vic Police band, or the defense force bands.  Hey, even one of the community brass bands would do a terrific job. I’d also love to see the Haka performed on ice

The next day– my scholarly and tech savvy husband having had a blast decided to stream the last match on our large TV. We’ve now watched several AIHL matches via the web AND we’re subscribing to the streaming thingy from the NHL.

The only real question is – which team?

Yes – Melbourne Ice, almost without question. I don’t have the necessary faith to love a team that wins rarely as opposed to often… But the NHL ones? I appreciate Nicko’s philosophy of supporting the team with the best logo. RedWings’ is a stand out for visual design. I’m a music therapist. I want a team with a song with great lyrics that I can easily learn and play. Melbourne Storm had a winner in Chumbawumba’s ‘Tubthumping’. Wish they’d kept it. I want a song that is easy to sing, not one with a chord riff and intro I’ll never replicate.

Any suggestions?

Postscript – Saw a guy at Icehouse wearing a shirt with a blue music note! St Louis Blues with a song that is suitably daggy 

Late on a Tuesday

By Nicko

The new stride. Arms swinging, skating on the left foot, heading out towards 11 o’clock, and now the right skate, in the air, touches the left skate at the ankle. Not a bounce, not a click, like Dorothy in Oz, just a gentle touch.

And with that, the right foot touches down, takes my weight and on that foot, pushing through the upper leg and the knee, I glide off to 1 o’clock, left foot trailing and now coming to meet the right ankle, underneath my body, ready for the exchange of weight right under my hockey stance.

The new stride? Hell, this should always have been my stride. Somewhere I went wrong, especially in games, and so I’m back in a General Skate, hanging laps like I was constantly last year, but not so much this year. My skates feeling strange under me, as my weight is in different places, very deliberately not camped on the inside edge, dodging the random learner skaters scattered around the Bradbury Rink, and the figure skaters working on their moves pre-class.

A bearded figure emerges from inside the skate sharpening booth, and waves, so I hop off the ice and am met by Lliam Webster, standing extremely upright and turning like Ned Kelly in full armour to face me and say hello. Or maybe like Val Kilmer as Batman, in that movie where they truly screwed up his suit so he couldn’t turn his head at all and had to twist his entire torso to look around.

Lliam Webster, today.

Turns out Lliam pulled up from the weekend with a sore neck.

I have a bandaged wrist; either from Friday night’s three hours of stick handling or an overly-ambitious Diesel Williams handball attempt gone wrong at the Bang on Sunday, I’m not sure.

Both battered from the weekend. Life’s good.

I return to the rink for the last few minutes of General Skate before the figure skaters take over, and work on my still depressingly non-existent outside edges. I creak around corners, trying to move my shoulders, even do the airplane like Martin Kutek showed me. At one stage I fall, but I’ve got knees and elbows on, as well as my gloves, so it’s okay. Eventually I get frustrated and try to skate as fast as I can, which leads to an even better stack, as I lean too far forward at high speed and end up sliding from red line beyond the blue on my knees and gloves. I resist the urge to yell: “Weeeee!”

Shouldn’t I be past incidents like that by now? I guess not. Joey Hughes told me he goes back to the absolute basics for a couple of weeks before Melbourne Ice pre-season training starts. Does everything they teach us in Intro class; swizels, C-cuts, inside and outside edges work, crossovers … if it’s good enough for him, then I can do it, to get my new stride happening, and leave wide-legged, immobile Nicko behind.

I work some more on my edges and then notice a child, flawlessly skating on her outside edge, arms spread in figure skater stance. She cuts a tight left hander and then goes into spins, completing four perfectly before stopping. She bursts into tears and heads for the boards.

Her mum explains to me that she has to get to five spins to complete the move and is frustrated she can’t get that fifth turn. This little girl who literally maybe comes up to my waist. She’s five years old, started skating two years ago.

I’d kill for her outside edges and balance.

She cries gently into the boards as her father consoles her.

I hang a few more laps until Army and Tommy wander past, on their way to the Zamboni garage. They’re heading to Perth this weekend, the Ice needing one win in the last three games to confirm top spot in their division of the AIHL. Joey’s back from suspension for the second game in Perth, giving the Ice two killer lines. Mercifully they’re not flying the plane that lands early on Saturday morning, needing to play later that night. Instead they’ll arrive on Friday and get some sleep. Lliam’s neck is in for a rough weekend.

I wish them luck. Army encourages me to keep working on the stride. Says he’ll see me at class tomorrow. Then kicks me off the ice. I unlace my skates, leave them for a sharpen, wander into the cold dusk, to my car and my dog, and let the real world swallow me whole.